What Is a Public Information Officer? (With Job Duties and Skills)
Updated January 26, 2023
A public information officer is a figure who communicates timely information about their organization with members of the public. Working as a public information officer allows you to fulfill an ambassador role and regularly interact with the larger community. If you have effective communication and interpersonal skills, you might enjoy a career as a public information officer. In this article, we define what a public information officer is and explore some characteristics of this career, including job duties, qualifications, work environment, salary and key skills.
What is a public information officer?
A public information officer is a professional who facilitates communication between an organization and the general public. Most public information officers work for state or local governments. This is because governments often have complex or technical information that they want to share, so a public information officer can help make these communications accessible to all audiences.
A public information officer can also work for a private company, but in these environments, they typically operate under the job titles of public relations specialist or communications specialist.
Related: What Is Information Management?
What does a public information officer do?
A public information officer has several responsibilities that relate to sharing information with the community. One of the most common job duties for a public information officer is hosting press conferences or other types of events where they can make announcements about important news or share updates about crisis situations Public information officers also spend time writing press releases, social media posts and other forms of communication that they share with the public via the internet.
Some additional job duties for public information officers include:
Speaking with individual members of the public to answer questions and gather information
Developing content strategies for releasing updates
Writing press releases
Hosting special events that promote important public events or holidays
Arranging interviews between members of their organization and other stakeholders or groups
Maintaining positive relationships with media outlets
Helping executive management create a specific public image for their organization
What qualifications does a public information officer need?
Here are some of the qualifications that a public information officer typically needs to fulfill:
Employers typically expect public information officers to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree. This is because earning a bachelor's degree can give candidates the opportunity to develop their skills and expertise while learning about high-level concepts in the field of their choice. Much of a public information officer's job involves communicating with organizations and community members. Because of this, most candidates choose to major in communications or public relations in order to receive training in the subjects that might be most relevant to their future work.
However, you can also major in journalism, marketing or a closely related field that allows you to develop your language and interpersonal skills, which can be especially important for public information officers.
The most effective training method for a career as a public information officer is to first work in an entry-level job in public relations. This is because public information officers perform many of the same job duties as other professionals in public relations, so working in the industry after graduation can help you further improve your skills. Gaining experience in public relations can also provide you with the opportunity to learn about the field from professionals who are already established in the industry, which can offer insights into communication methods and media standards.
While building experience in public relations, it can also be important to familiarize yourself with different forms of media. As a public information officer's main responsibility is to share information from their organization with the public, knowing which forms of media the public interacts with can be helpful. For example, it can be beneficial to learn about the different social media platforms that a community uses so you can post information that the public can access and share with their peers quickly.
What skills are important for a public information officer?
There are many skills that are essential for public information officers, most of which relate to communication. Another key skill for public information officers is organization, as they often have to review and synthesize high volumes of information. Social media skills are also helpful, as many members of the public receive their daily news on these platforms.
Here are a few more skills that a public information officer commonly utilizes:
Attention to detail
Work environment for a public information officer
Public information officers work standard 40-hour work weeks. However, since one of their job duties is to quickly assess and create responses regarding public events, they may work irregular hours in order to address these situations. Their job may also involve travel to different places within their community to make public statements, facilitate interviews or fulfill media requests. Because of this, public information officers can benefit from being adaptable and flexible in how they view their work.
Related: 46 Public Relations Jobs
What is the salary and job outlook for a public information officer?
The national average salary for the related career of public relations managers is $54,769 per year. However, public information officers working for the state or local government may earn a higher wage. Other factors that may impact salary include previous qualifications and years of experience.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people employed in the related fields of public relations and fundraising managers is expected to increase by 9% from 2019 to 2029, which is a fairly rapid rate of growth compared to the average for other occupations in that same time period. The BLS states that this increase might result from the growing number of organizations that want to focus on community outreach and public relations.
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